I’ll always remember the way he looked at me moments before we went our separate ways.
In fact, it was one of the only things I could think of on my plane ride back to California. There I was, sitting in the aisle seat, wearing a long black dress and a long pout to match, replaying it all in my head. Flashes of the previous 12 hours swirled around: how he twirled me on the dance floor, the thrill of frolicking in the rain, the comfort of our natural conversation, and those eyes. I swear, he hooked me with those blue eyes…
It all started like any other Bachelorette Weekend.
One of my best friends was getting married in May, so the whole bridal party met in New Orleans the last weekend in February ready for Bourbon Street, beignets, boas, and beads.
We were having a ball. We stopped by the famous Carousel Bar on Friday night. The next morning, we grabbed a Bloody Mary at Stanley, wandered around the crowded, vibrant streets, and topped off the afternoon with Hurricanes at Pat O’Briens. For Sunday, our last night, we planned a lovely group dinner at Café Amelie.
After a delicious spread and equally delicious cocktails, we took to the New Orleans streets once again. A few blocks and a couple photoshoots later, we found ourselves on Bourbon Street in front of Cats Meow, an iconic karaoke bar. Since no Bachelorette Party is complete until at least SOMEBODY gets on a stage, the seven of us made our way inside.
The bar certainly lived up to its name. We were greeted by bright colors, good tunes, and a growing crowd. It wasn’t long before we parked ourselves and a few vodka sodas near the front of the stage and began singing along with the words on the screen. I distinctly remember recording a video of us when someone started belting out Katy Perry’s “Darkhorse.” We belted right along with her.
Somewhere between the second round of drinks and our group getting called to the stage, we pretty much took over the dance floor. It was a classic scene: hands in the air, laughing at each other’s moves, snapping pictures. As I was looking around at my friends, my eyes made their way to the door. A man was walking inside. He quickly scanned the place and then his blue eyes landed on me. We held each other’s gaze for a second or two, smiled, and then I turned back to my girls. In what seemed like two seconds later, I felt a presence behind me. I looked over my shoulder and there he was. The man who had just walked in.
We’ve since gone back and forth about what his opening line was. He says he thinks he made a comment like, “So, what is this? A Bachelorette Party?” I can’t be sure, but whatever it was, I responded and a conversation began. Conversation led to a drink and a drink led to a dance.
He was a good dancer.
There was something about the way he took my hand and spun me around that felt so classic. Almost old-fashioned – which, looking back now, makes a lot of sense. He’s kind of an old soul, a trait that I cherish, one that has set him apart.
When it was time for us girls to take the karaoke stage, I told him I’d be right back. He watched from the crowd as we helped the Bachelorette sing some old school Salt-N-Pepa.
Afterwards, he and I grabbed another drink and chatted near the bar. Here’s what I learned: he grew up in Kansas City, became a Marine, and was currently on assignment in Germany. He was only home in the states for a short leave; he had just attended a wedding in Mexico and was in NOLA to celebrate his sister’s birthday.
He would be flying back to Germany in two days.
I mean, did I really expect him to say he was from Southern California? Of course not. Here I was on a girls vacation, letting loose, and celebrating my friend. Meeting a man was not the objective of this trip. So, as the haze of another cocktail set in, I just let myself live in the moment with Mr. Blue Eyes. No expectations. We joined my friends, I said hello to his friends, and we danced into the early morning. As my girls called a cab, I told them I wanted to stay a little longer. Before leaving with everyone, the Bachelorette marched over to Blue and gave him a stern warning that he better keep me safe – or else. I loved her for that, but somehow I knew I’d be just fine.
After a few more songs (and a couple more spins), the bar started to close down. It was time to head back. Throwing on our coats, we said good-bye to Cats Meow and walked outside. We were immediately greeted by a torrential downpour. How movie-like. We ran across the street to an area of the sidewalk that was covered by an overhang. I don’t exactly remember the details, but I’m sure it went something like this: we looked at each other, smiling and wiping the rain from our faces. I took a spot against the wall and reached for him. Fast forward to his hands wrapped around me and his lips quickly meeting mine.
Have you ever kissed someone at 2am, on Bourbon Street, while rain fell from every direction?
Well, I highly recommend it. Crowds of people may have walked by us, but I never would have noticed.
As we made our way to a cab, I started to feel sad because I thought the night was ending. But Blue simply said to the driver, “Just drive around for a bit.” A late night tour of New Orleans in the backseat of a cab with a handsome man? Highly recommend that, too.
It stopped raining by the time we finally turned onto my street. We got out and started walking towards my hotel. It was then that he told me his assignment in Germany was up in a month.
“Before I come back to the states for good, I’m planning a three-week vacation in Spain. Maybe you could meet me there,” he said rather casually.
In my giddy, dream-like state, I replied something like, “Wow, that would be wonderful.”
Anything is possible on nights like these, right?
The answer to that is YES: Once we reached the lobby, I got that sad please-I-don’t-want-it-to-end feeling again. But only for a minute. Blue, feeling the same way, made it possible for us to have even more time by deciding to stay at the hotel, too.
By morning, we were chatting like old friends, sharing stories and laughing. Everything just felt…comfortable. I was trying with all my might to make time stand still. It had been a long time since I felt this way – and the way our eyes would connect when we kissed just added to the rush.
I really didn’t want to leave.
Eventually, though, I had to. He had to. We both had planes to catch. After gathering our things, we made the long walk to the elevator. Holding his hand the entire way, I remember thinking how strange it was to already feel so close to someone. How could that be?
I got my answer as we reached the elevator. We kissed goodbye and took one final look at each other.
It was those eyes.
Those eyes were all it took to make two strangers in a bar strangers no more. And with that, he stepped into the elevator. I turned before I could see the doors close.
Keep Reading: Do You Believe in Magic?
P.S. Missed the beginning of this series? Find the complete Modern Day Love Story here.
“I know the eyes are the windows to the soul or whatever, but the real crux of the moment was not just that I was really seeing someone, but that I was seeing someone really seeing me.”
From To Fall in Love With Anyone, Do This, by Mandy Len Catron
[Featured Image by Brian Rea.]